Exploring is no longer about putting in the hard yards on foot. Take a drone with you, and all of the surrounding landscape is yours to enjoy without any painful efforts. All except a close-up view of the landscape itself, that is. But even for this, footwork may not be necessary for much longer. Clever people at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have developed a drone — inspired by a vampire bat — that can fly, land and then crawl over most terrain.
Christened DALER (Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot), the drone would be quite impressive if flight were its only talent. Capable of traveling at up to 45mph, the DALER is the jet fighter of the remote control world, with impressive high-speed maneuverability. The wings are constructed to replicate those of a bat, with a jointed structure supporting thin, durable material. This makes the drone very light and remarkably shock resistant.
The main head-turner with these wings, however, has nothing to do with navigating the skies. At the end of each wing is a triangular moveable part, which performs the usual job of an aileron in flight. But once the drone lands, these parts — dubbed “wingerons” — start rotating. In so doing, they become triangular wheels, propelling and lifting the drone over uneven ground. Progress is relatively slow for the current DALER prototype, with a top ground speed of 2.5 inches per second, but the idea is both ingenious and surprisingly effective.
The multi-purpose potential for an air-to-land UAV is obvious, but the team in Switzerland sees their invention being used to find injured and trapped survivors in disaster situations. It is hoped that future versions will be able to hover and take off autonomously, further extending the DALER’s possible functions.
You can read more about the new drone here.